The idea that thoughts create, or that you create what you think about, has become a giant sacred cow in the New Age movement. Like all sacred cows it is a distortion of a very beautiful truth, so let’s knock it down and set that original truth free again.
First of all, thoughts do not create. Thoughts are creations, not creators. Thoughts are generated and processed by the human mind, and the mind is not a creator either. The mind is a data processing device, and it has no creative power whatsoever. You are the creator, not your mind or your thoughts. (Read this post if you do not understand the difference between you and your mind.)
That having been said, becoming aware of your thoughts can have a profound effect upon your life. Why? Because thoughts generate emotions, and emotional energy has a huge influence on you and what you create and attract. Emotional energy is not itself creative either, but it is extremely seductive and can hypnotize you into creating all kinds of things that you may or may not want in your life, and into making choices that may or may not be good for you. (See this post for more about emotions.)
Furthermore, the thoughts you are aware of thinking are only a tiny percentage of the all the thoughts you are actually thinking, and very few of them are even yours. Almost all the thoughts you think were created long ago by someone else, and then became part of the collective consciousness of humanity. Over time those thoughts were organized into groups and patterns, and from the moment you were born you’ve been soaking them up and taking them into your being as though they were yours.
Now those pre-packaged patterns of thought, also known as belief systems, have become so familiar that you seldom notice and almost never question them. They make up the vast majority of what you think and are responsible for nearly all the emotions you feel and nearly everything you have created, to the point that you (yes, this applies to nearly every human on Earth) have become little more than a robot.
Think about this for a moment. When was the last time you had an experience that was truly unique? When was the last time you allowed yourself to consider a thought or idea that hadn’t already been thought by a billion other people? It is exceedingly rare that any human allows themselves to consider a truly new thought, and those who do are usually set apart as geniuses or freaks.
But you are a creator. You are a unique and sovereign being, so why should you live out the same thoughts and experiences as all those other people? You don’t need to, but you are hypnotized into it by the intense emotional energy generated by those old thought patterns and reinforced every day by the people around you.
So how can you free yourself from this hypnosis? As we’ve discussed in the series on Learning to Feel, one of the best ways is to make a choice to become your own observer. Your thoughts are a direct window into your being, and when you shine the light of awareness into yourself, you change.
When you observe your thoughts and become aware of a limiting pattern (belief system), that pattern falls away and takes with it all the things that you’ve created because of it, and then your creations change to reflect a less limited you. It wasn’t your thoughts that caused the change, for they were simply the mirror that allowed you to become more aware of yourself.
When you first start playing with this it’s easy to think that your thoughts are creating your reality, for when they change your reality changes also. But that’s putting the cart before the horse, because it was you that changed, and as a result your reality changed and so did your thoughts.
It’s important to remember that thoughts do stimulate emotions (more about that here), and because of that it is possible for you (or someone else) to manipulate your thoughts in a way that stirs up so much emotional energy that you are hypnotized into creating a temporary change in the world around you. But that’s a mental game that almost always backfires, for those patterns of thought have been refined and honed over eons of time, and no new thoughts that you feed into the system are going to be able to override it for very long.
For example, a faith healer can feed a series of thoughts into your mind that are carefully designed to stir up intense emotional energy and hypnotize you into believing you are healed, and you will be. The problem is that it was the healer’s pattern of thoughts, not yours, and as soon as you are out of his or her presence the old patterns will quickly begin to reassert themselves again. You’ve only traded one hypnosis for another, and the older and stronger one will always reassert itself until you release it.
Or suppose you want a new car. I’ve watched people do ceremonies and rituals to fill up their minds with positive thoughts about abundance, and work up all kinds of emotional energy. A day or two later they just happened to find themselves at a car dealership where everything “just happened” to work out in surprising ways, and they drove home in a brand new car and talked excitedly about how this mind-over-matter stuff really works. Then the payment book arrived for a high-interest zero-down loan on the full sticker price of the car, and soon they found themselves in a worse mess than they’d been in before.
All that really happened was that they hypnotized themselves into thinking they could afford anything, but they didn’t change the older and deeper hypnosis that said they couldn’t. I’ve done things like that myself more than once and lived to regret it, but I’ve also had truly magical things happen. In every case the difference was that the truly magical things were not created through mental and emotional manipulation, but from a deeper place in me that is beyond any thought.
One time a late-model pickup truck was unexpectedly offered to me, complete with financing at a good rate. At the time I was driving a beat up old car that I’d gotten for three hundred dollars after it had been in an accident, and I knew I was going to have to replace it at some point. But I’d ruined my credit and business was slow, and besides that I truly loved the old clunker, and so I wasn’t even thinking about buying something new.
When my brother unexpectedly offered his truck to me for a good price, and offered to arrange financing in his own name as well, I was flabbergasted. At first I wasn’t interested, because though it was a beautiful vehicle and a good deal, it wasn’t anything like what I had imagined and I was really afraid that I wouldn’t be able to make the payments. But then I heard a voice somewhere deep inside me say, “I’ve arranged this for you. Are you going to trust me or not?” I chose to trust, and that truck turned out to be the absolute perfect vehicle for the next seven years of my life. It turned out to be far better for me than any of the other vehicles I had imagined would have been, and somehow the payments were always made.
That experience was a lesson in trusting the deeper part of myself, the part my mind doesn’t understand, instead of playing mental games to try and manipulate my reality into what I think I want it to be. But people are impatient. We want to fix everything right now in this red hot minute, and we don’t want to take the time for real change to happen. More than that we don’t want to look inside ourselves to find out why we’ve created the things in our lives, mostly because we’re terrified and ashamed of what we might find in there.
So instead we’ve tried to manipulate ourselves into creating something different. We’ve created mental games like positive thinking, affirmations, visualization, intentional hypnosis (by self or others), etc. Sometimes we get short-term results from those games, but more often we just get disappointment, frustration, and more chaos in our lives. In the end we’re just piling hypnosis on top of hypnosis, and nothing ever really changes in our lives.
At one time some of these things were effective in showing us that we are creators, but now our understanding has evolved and they have mostly become crutches that keep us locked in our heads and in our limited belief patterns. Freedom can never be found in mind or in thought, for the mind is not who we are and thought is a product of mind.
Real freedom is found in awareness. A conscious person, meaning a person who is aware, cannot be hypnotized, for awareness is the antithesis of hypnosis. Awareness, however, is not a thinking activity, for the mind can only analyze; it cannot observe.
Take a moment and observe the tree outside your window, or some other object in your surroundings.
Is the object you’re observing primarily a thought, or is it more of a sensation (feeling) in your visual awareness?
What is your mind doing? Is it observing (being aware of) the object, or is it analyzing its properties, giving it a name, and deciding if it’s dangerous or what its uses might be?
Do you see how quickly your mind distracts you from your awareness of the actual object, and plugs you back into an old and familiar pattern of thought about similar objects? Do you see how you just hypnotized yourself?
Now take a deep breath, and come back to the simple awareness of the object.
That was pretty easy, wasn’t it? Your mind is still running on in the background, but now you know it’s not you, and it won’t be so easy for it to bamboozle you out of your direct experience of the object. Don’t be surprised here if you start to notice things you’ve never seen before about the object, but be aware that for each thing you notice your mind will dash in and try to turn it into something. Just take another breath, and come back to the simple awareness, or experience, of the object.
Now expand your awareness to all those thoughts running through your mind. Your mind will instantly jump up again and try to analyze them for you, but just ask it to relax. Take another breath and come back to the simple awareness of the thoughts flitting through your mind. Don’t catalogue them or try to remember them; just be aware as they float by, and after a few moments return your awareness here.
Congratulations! You’ve just brought awareness to an object that you’ve probably never truly seen before, even though it’s been there all along, and to a pattern of thought you never knew you were thinking but that has limited your awareness of that object. Now it will all begin to change, and you will never see that object the same way again. Nor will you create the same experiences around it that you’ve created before.
You can do that with anything in your life. If there’s something you don’t want but can’t seem to get rid of, simply bring it into your awareness and then become aware of the thoughts that run through your mind about it. Don’t judge them or analyze them, although you are likely to notice that some of them make no sense at all. You don’t even need to figure out where they came from, although you may become aware of that and of a lot of locked-up feelings you didn’t know you had. Just be aware of it all, let the feelings move through you, and then take a deep breath and let it all go.
That’s all there is to it, and your life will begin to change. It may take time and there may be many more layers and related patterns to become aware of, but the changes that come will be far more real and lasting than anything you ever could have created by manipulating and controlling your thoughts.